In the aftermath of UFC 143, fans of the sport of mixed martial arts were left disappointed with the performance of Carlos Condit, a fighter nicknamed the Natural Born Killer. The fight had been against Nick Diaz for the promotions Welterweight title, albeit the interim version, following a serious injury to the champion Georges St-Pierre. While many voiced the opinion that it was Diaz who won the fight, it was Condit who clearly out struck and out manoeuvred his predictable opponent to take a clearly earn a decision on the judges scorecards.
Condit had been the underdog going into the fight, and in winning he had upset not just the odds against him but a chance of a ‘super fight’ between Diaz and St-Pierre. Many were quick to criticise Condit’s approach to the fight, saying he ‘ran’ from Diaz during many of the exchanges. Condit had fought a smart fight but not a fight that was deemed courageous or dignified.
Many past fighters had been drawn into Diaz’s brawling style and relentless cardio, all to be eventually overwhelmed. Condit’s tactic to stick and move has long been a staple of boxing and in fact follows the legendary trainer Cus D’amato’s adage, ‘‘you’ve got to be clever, you’ve got to be smart and not get hit, and when your able to do this you’re a fighter’’. Yet Condit wasn’t deemed a fighter, quickly being given the name ‘The Natural Born Runner’.
Carlos Condit is no coward. The same man who survived repeated overhand rights from power punching brute Jake Ellenberger, rebounding from the verge of unconsciousness to win a close decision. The same man who flew to England to take on Dan Hardy in what would be a pure kickboxing match, winning by first round knockout when Hardy’s last opponent, champion St-Pierre, had done everything in his power to keep him on the floor. The same man who came back from two rounds down on the scorecards to destroy the ridiculously talented Rory Macdonald cant be classed as a coward. In fact out of 33 professional fights this was only the 4th time Condit had gone to a decision. Condit has repeatedly shown grit and tenacity in fights where many others would have wilted under the pressure. Yet people were quick to overlook this and criticise Condit the same way many criticise the champion St-Pierre, for playing it safe.
Georges St-Pierre was 13-1 when he won the UFC Welterweight title from Matt Hughes, winning by technical knockout after landing a head kick. He was an ideal champion for the UFC at the time, he was dynamic, good looking, finished fights and even pulled off being French to a certain degree. His first title fight would be a squash match against a natural lightweight in Matt Serra, who had been awarded his title shot after winning a series of the Ultimate Fighter, where lower and mid-tier fighters were given a ‘Rocky-like’ chance at glory should they win the season. Matt Serra wasn’t really expected to win, not against the mighty St-Pierre, yet sure enough and given the unpredictability of kickboxing (read the other blog entries for further details) Serra managed to repeatedly rock GSP with power shots leading to a shocking first round upset win.
This loss would have a devastating effect on that incarnation of Georges St-Pierre, from that day he would never be the same fighter. This isn’t to say he faded away into shadows to Marlon Brando himself toward obesity. St-Pierre would prove his class, as he would come back from this defeat better than ever. How was he able to manage this? From the realisation that kickboxing only ever provides a 90% chance of winning, you will always be open to a knockout blow if you stand and trade with your opponents long enough. GSP was always a well rounded fighter, but now he was to change his entire approach towards fighting to that of a pure grappler. Developing a devastating takedown game, St-Pierre could minimise the chances of being knocked out and instead use his natural athleticism and expert submission defence to stay out of trouble on the floor.
GSP would win his next two fights to gain the opportunity to fight for ‘his’ Welterweight title in a rematch against Matt Serra, who had tellingly not fought since defeating St-Pierre a year before. This time GSP would use his grappling to neutralise the chance of a repeat occurrence and destroyed Serra in less than two rounds. St-Pierre would go on to defend his title six times to this date.
However as Georges St-Pierre grew in popularity, becoming one of the UFC’s biggest pay-per-view stars, there was also growing criticism for his cautious fighting style. Winning one-sided decisions against fighters like Dan Hardy, Josh Koscheck, Jon Fitch and Jake Shields showed St-Pierre’s dominance at the top of the division. Yet all these opponents have been knocked out in one round by lesser opposition, some in there very next fight after taking on GSP.
There isn’t a critic in the world that’s doubts St-Pierre’s talents as fighter, the criticism towards him is more focused on the fact GSP doesn’t seem to ‘try’ to win fights by finishing his opponents, always seeming content to coast to a decision. People feel that St-Pierre fights ‘too pretty’, that he avoids the need to display the grit that is synonymous with great champions and legendary fights. This is similar to how many fans felt hoodwinked by the game plan of Condit against Diaz, a fight which on paper seemed to be and back and forth barnburner, with Condit’s own pre-fight admission ‘It’s gonna be a dog-fight’ played during the pay-per-view advertisements.
An interesting question is, are either of these men wrong to have fought this way?
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